Going to the Algarve in January may seem a bit rogue - surely you'd want to hit up those beaches in summer, no? Well, yes, that's delightful. But the Algarve is actually more than the coast, which I recently discovered on a little spa break at Macdonald Monchique.
The new five-star spa resort is found up in the mountains of southern Portugal, and I figured it might just be the perfect place to escape to at the end of January.
With my sister - who was certainly in need of relaxation after her finals at uni - in tow, we flew south for a spot of pampering and winter sun.
The resort as a whole
The resort is absolutely huge - spaced out over seemingly endless levels (this is up a mountain after all), it was a little confusing to navigate around, but we managed. It's very cleverly arranged really.
Throughout the resort, there seemed to be Michael Buble and general jazz tunes being played, but tbh I thoroughly enjoyed that. It was lovely and relaxed.
Despite the fact that there's free guest wifi throughout the resort, each room has their own private wifi which was just incredible really. Deffos appreciated that.
The best meal of the day did not disappoint at Macdonald Monchique. There. Was. Everything.
In fact, we didn't even realise at first quite how much choice there was as it was all a little hidden, but it didn't take us long.
There were six different juices, still and sparkling water, and even espumante (sparkling wine) so obvs I had a bellini because they are possibly my favourite drink in the world.
I was also pleased to find peanut butter on offer because - as someone who has spent many a summer holiday in the Algarve - I know it's not so easy to come by.
There weren't loads of cereals, but there was a good hot menu, from which you could order everything from freshly scrambled eggs to pancakes.
We ate our first lunch out on the terrace in the sunshine which was just the dream.
The food was all delicious and definitely fresh though - the menu changes seasonally and focuses on local ingredients, which I love.
We stayed inside for our second lunch (the next day, that is), and it was a deliciously carby affair:
Although some of the restaurants were closed, the bar was fortunately open, so Holly and I took the opportunity to have a couple of Champagne cocktails one evening. Yeahhhh we classy.
We had a couple of cracking puddings too - one night I went for that classic Portuguese dessert of apple crumble (ahem), however I had it with peanut butter icing which OMG you must totally do. It was scrumptious.
I was most excited upon seeing the below on the menu: chocolate brownie with peanut butter ice cream, caramelised walnuts and banana puree.
There's a lot going on at Macdonald Monchique, but one of my favourite activities during our stay was actually being taken on a guided walk of the surroundings.
The spa is perhaps the most unique part of the resort, and we loved it - Holly and I both had full body massages which left me feeling v zen.
We also made the most of the thermal circuit which included lots of fun things like scented rain showers with rainforest sound effects, steam rooms, foot jacuzzis and a sauna.
Unfortunately it was a little chilly to take a dip in the outside pool but we did have a little swim in the indoor one.
As the sun made its way to bed, it was bathed in the most beautiful light.
It's safe to say I left Macdonald Monchique feeling wonderfully relaxed and happy - it had been the most delightful and luxurious stay, and the service had been faultless throughout. The staff really were fantastic.
I half want to go back in peak season to make the most of the heat, but at the same time, it was pretty darn awesome feeling like we had the resort to ourselves half the time. It was possibly the perfect sister break too - I think the (Portu-)gals will be back.
Holly and I were guests at Macdonald Monchique but all opinions are completely honest and unbiased.